Leilah B. Lyons

    Email Address: llyons@uic.edu
    College: Engineering Department: Computer Science
    Secondary Department: Learning Sciences Research Institute
    Title: Assistant Professor
    Office: 1132 SEO Phone: 312-355-1310
    Webpage: http://www.cs.uic.edu/~llyons/
    Participating in the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Research Awards program: Yes

    Research Interest:
    My main area of research interest is in the design of collaborative, computer-based museum exhibits. I have also done a great deal of work with complex system simulations in museums, classrooms, and in urban planning contexts. I am interested in the ways in which user interface design can be used to scaffold collaborative learning processes. I am also interested in how to make simulated scientific phenomena more accessible to learners: via the selection of appropriate technologies, the design of the user interface, and the activity design. As a consequence, my lab has worked with a range of technologies, from mobiles to computer vision to tangible user interfaces to embodied interaction. We have made a polar bear role-playing game for the Brookfield Zoo, an embodied data interaction exhibit for the Jane Addams Hull House, a table-based urban planning game, among other projects. Much of the research work comes AFTER building these experiences: we videotape users and try to figure out what they are learning from the experience by examining what they say and do, which we determine by examining log files of their interactions. Thus we use a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods.

    Minimum time commitment in hours per week: 3

    Qualifications of a Student:
    Students should have a minimum GPA of 3.6, a good work ethic, and good language and communication skills. A qualified student will have, above all else, an interest in discovering how researchers can use different kinds of data to better understand how learners come to understand science topics. They do not need to have any prior knowledge of computer programming or technology. Students can be in any grade level, and would ideally be in a major where the skills they will acquire on this project will help them explore possible job interests (e.g., being a usability designer or researcher, a learning researcher, a psychology researcher, or someone interested in science or math education in classrooms or in museums or in the "real world"). The science topics we deal with involve ecology, animal behavior and physiology, and climate change. The math topics we deal with involve spatial reasoning and graph interpretation. We also educate people about professions like urban planning. If a student has a background in any of these areas it might be helpful for them as they conduct the work.

    Brief Summary of what is expected from the student:
    We need help with transcribing and coding our videotapes of learners interacting with games. Transcribing entails listening to what users say and typing it out (we have specialized software that makes this process easy to do), "coding", in this context, means trying to figure out what the learner meant by making a given statement. Each statement will be labeled by a "code" - a label that indicates the kind of statement being made (e.g., a "question" or a "statement"; a statement referring to the "part" or to the "future", etc.). Our group will provide the "coding scheme," i.e., the labels to use. These techniques are common in Learning Sciences research, Psychology research, Human-Computer Interaction research, and Education research. We also want the student to assist our team in analyzing the coded data, as this is where the "payoff" is: you can tally up differences in overall behavior across experimental conditions, start seeing patterns of behavior over time, and compare how different learners respond to the learning experience. The analyzed data is used to help revise the design of the learning experience. We do not expect that the student will have skills with the software or tasks mentioned here, but will train the student in their use. Work will be conducted on computers in our lab, and students will be surrounded by experienced graduate students who can help them with questions at any time.

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